1. Don’t sugarcoat the circumstances.
The pandemic “changed everything in our industry,” says designer Liz Goldberg, founder of Carolynleona. “It’s been the biggest disrupter yet.” It’s caused major product delays, for starters. “We’re finding pieces backordered for a year at this point,” she says. Sometimes product shipments even get delayed progressively, adding unpredictability to the mix.
Costs have skyrocketed too. “A lot of vendors raised their prices and added a surcharge in 2021,” says purchaser Mary Gorman, founder of COCO To The Trade. “Then they raised prices again, including the surcharge. Now they’re going to price things even higher and again add the surcharge.”
Downplaying these realities with clients can only come back to bite you. Instead, tell them openly that costs and timelines might change even daily. “We’ve added a COVID-19 amendment page to our client agreements that explains supply-chain issues in detail and how we’re not responsible; we’re just passing along that information,” Goldberg says. She also requires a 10% retainer, which she can dip into to avoid having to go back to the client for every little price change. And it’s clearly noted on all her invoices that with some exceptions, items can’t be returned or canceled.
“We’re reiterating constantly what the expectations are and how we’re going to do our best to deliver, but there are going to be hiccups along the way,” Goldberg says.